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Driftless Area: Lack of Glacial Drift

The Driftless Area is a region in northeastern Iowa as well as other parts of the Midwest where the last continental glaciers passed by, leaving this area driftless. Due to the lack of glacier drift, the environment in this region is much different than its surrounding areas, allowing many unique plants and animals to live there.

Northeast Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • Why did settlement occur in this area and what role(s) did nature play in this?
  • Why are some of the plants and animals only found in this area?
  • How would this environment change your day-to-day lifestyle? (Driving around bluffs instead of straight highways, flooding, fog, country roads with hills (dangers…ice, little vision), recent tornado activity, farming, etc)
  • How does agriculture differ between parts of Iowa and what are the contributing factors of the Driftless Area?

Classroom Suggestions

  • Have students compare the driftless area to the area they live in.
  • Students can research why settlement occurred in the driftless area and the role nature played in this (Protection from bluffs, water from the river, etc.).
  • Have students research plants and animals unique to this area.
  • Have students look into impacts of life by the water (fog banks, flooding, storms)
  • Use resources below for pictures about phenomena (icicles from bluffs, creek beds, native species, etc.).

Related Resources

  • The Nature Conservancy: The website explains the long-term plan of conserving the area to help protect the wildlife and plants that can survive solely in this area.
  • Pikes Peak State Park: This website explains the different aspects associated with Pikes Peak and tons of pictures for reference. 
  • Scott Boylen Photography: This resource has multiple photos of the surroundings within the driftless region capturing the unique ecosystem and the interactions of the inhabitants. 

Iowa Core Alignment


Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats

Credit Info

Submitted by Emma Ammons and Micah Decker

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